The Big Picture
Photo: Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images
The world record for a manned flight powered only by AA batteries was set on 16 July at an airport north of Tokyo. There isn’t much competition in that category, but the plane’s sponsor, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., in Osaka, which made all 160 of the plane’s batteries, sure is proud of the accomplishment. That summer day the plane, which weighs just 54 kilograms without a pilot and has a wingspan of 31 meters, flew a distance of 391.4 meters. It managed to stay aloft for 59 seconds and reached an altitude of 5.2 meters. Matsushita asked students at the Tokyo Institute of Technology to design and build the plane to show off its new Panasonic brand Oxyride dry cell batteries. The company claims the battery has an edge on ordinary alkaline batteries for consumer electronics that drain energy quickly, such as digital cameras. The batteries use souped-up alkaline chemistry that includes finer-grained fillers and a new kind of nickel-based cathode.